Sunday, 6 March 2016

Bird Watchers, Fed Up Owls and Marsh Harriers.

Well, I decided to wander over to the Manea bird hides today and test out my new Nikon zoom lens. I bought this in Salisbury shopping centre last week when Carole. We visited Salisbury Cathedral.

I found myself a nice bird hide and poured a cup of coffee and sat there waiting for something to happen. I was hoping the kingfisher might put in an appearance or the Marsh Harrier. There is also a Short Eared owl that I keep on seeing, though I’ve not managed to get any good photo shoots yet.

I was taking photos of the flooded fen and looking out across the plain through the binoculars. Then a commotion came from the waterfowl. They began to scatter in all directions, which is always a sure sign of the Marsh Harrier. Sure enough, it was so, but it was some distance. Even at the maximum 300m upon the lens giving me a 1.3 something magnification of just over 400m; I still had a job getting the right shots. I had all the multiple clicks for movement and the camera automatically focused upon the first touch. I began machine gun firing on the photo shots as the bird of prey passed by. I ran out of the back of the bird hide to see the magnificent raptor fly over the dyke and into the fields at the rear. Most of the shots were no good but some were credible enough to put on the blog. I’m sure that one day, I’ll get some better shots.










I came back into the bird hide and sat down. I poured out a coffee and continued to wait patiently. There were many varieties of waterfowl etc., but I only get a buzz out of the birds of prey. Also, the kingfisher is striking.

A man came through a joining door to the other bird hide next door. He was very friendly and asked if I had seen the Marsh Harrier go past. I told him I did and had gone out the back to try and get some more photo when the raptor passed over the dyke from the flood plain. He laughed and said he thought he heard someone clicking. He just had a telescope. I could not see any signs of a camera. He referred to me as a twitchier, which I presume is someone who likes to photograph as opposed to just bird watching. We had a fine conversation and chatted about the many raptors that are increasing in numbers around the Fens. We spoke of seeing them often along the motorways and concluded that it might be for the various road kill one finds on the verges. Also, EU laws concerning pesticides on rodents mean that raptors are not dying from eating poisoned vermin. Also, he said that farmers in the past had exterminated them. I don’t know how much of this is true, but he spoke at some length and told me of his joy concerning the increasing raptor population. He recommended an RSPB reserve at Frampton in Lincolnshire. It is not far from the Fens and he told me of a Peregrine Falcon that is resident there along with a number of Marsh Harriers. He also spoke of a Boot-Legged Eagle in Suffolk. I’m certain there is one in the Fenlands close to where Doddington Minor injuries Hospital is. We spoke on how they look like Common Buzzards but are bigger. He got out a book and showed me images of the Boot-Legged Eagle and now I’m even more convinced that we saw shut a raptor in the fields while emptying the bins of farms in the remote part of the Fenland. The man bade me farewell and went on his way.

Again I was looking through the binoculars hoping the Marsh Harrier might return. I watched the waterfowl knowing they would all fly off into panic at the first sight of the dreaded raptor. It did not happen. However, a second bird watcher came in. Another retired man perusing his hobby. He said hello and I did likewise. He also referred to me as a twitchier, and I replied that I was. He then went on to ask about various waterfowl by species names. I had to confess that I knew very little of these types of birds and went on to say that I’m more interested in the raptors because I like to try and photograph them for my Retro Brit blog.

He went on to tell me all about his bird watching and how he does it mostly on weekdays. As we spoke he was walking around the hide and looking through his binoculars. He told me he had seen the kingfisher up at the pump house further along the river. He was from Leicestershire and was staying at Huntington in Norfolk for three days. I spoke of the Marsh Harrier, which he realised was about because he had also noted the waterfowl panicking earlier on when walking along the bridal way. As I was telling him about the short-eared owl I had seen on a number of occasions, he replied.

“It’s out there upon the scarp.”

I frowned and looked to where he was pointing. Sure enough, it was there standing in the long grass looking out over the flooded fen. It must have been there for ages standing still. I probably dismissed it as a bit of dried grass amid the greenery. It looked like a distant mole hill to the naked eye, but when I looked through my binoculars it was the very owl I was speaking of.

“Blimey,” I replied. “It must have been sitting there for ages and I never even realised.”

The old bird watcher replied in his Midland accent that it was a pleasing find as I took my camera and started clicking away. After a time we began to ask ourselves if the owl would do anything. Like, fly off so I could get a couple of photos of it in flight. It would not. It just sat there with its head going from left to right. The raptor’s vision was sweeping across the flood plain, but that was all.

“I’m wondering if it has eaten its fill,” I said.

“Maybe,” replied the man.

I assumed it might be fed up. That is where we get the expression, ‘fed up’ from. When a bird of prey gorges itself, it gets stuffed up to its chest cavity and will not eat further. It needs to sit back and digest. Hence; fed up. I’m not saying the Short Eared Owl was fed up. Just that it might have been on account of it just sitting there and doing nothing but watch the water fowl. Another bird watcher like us for the time being. Sometimes the owl turned and starred directly at us, but did not seem too disturbed by our presence. This went on for about half an hour. I waited patiently hoping to photo the bird taking off in flight. It never happened. It started to groom itself and then seemed to go down a dip. Almost as though it went into a hidden hole. I know British owls don’t live in holes in the ground so I’m assuming it disappeared behind a mound. Out of sight soon out of mind.












 I said farewell to the Midland man and made my way back to the car pleased with some of the shots and content with the Marsh Harrier and Short Eared Owl. While driving home, I did see a low flying Common Buzzard but I had a car close behind and could not stop to take photos along the country road. I would have had to stop too abruptly with the car behind me. I turned left over a bridge and the car went on along the straight road. Once again I was alone in my car and spotted a lovely looking kestrel on the telephone cable. I stopped and got a few shots of this bird too.    





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